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More pigmeat from fewer sows

by 5m Editor
10 November 2003, at 12:00am

UK - Replacement stock, new hygiene procedures and a down-sizing of the breeding herd - to enable finishing pigs to be taken to heavier slaughterweights - are starting to transform results on the pig unit at Bishop Burton College of Agriculture, near Beverley, EastYorkshire.

JSR Genetics on ThePigSite.com

Performance had slumped after PMWS struck 12 months ago and the ageing herd needed new blood, since many of the 330 sows were into their eighth parities, following foot-and-mouth disease movement restrictions.

Conception rate percentages were languishing in the low 70s and mortality between weaning and finishing was running at over 20 per cent. One of the key factors in overcoming these problems was the introduction of the complete destocking of pens and houses followed by thorough cleaning and disinfection between batches, said unit manager Mel Lake. In addition, a new medication programme was instigated and a change was made to higher-quality feed.

In common with the rest of the industry, no money was available to invest in new buildings, so a decision was made to reduce the herd size to 250 sows and increase slaughterweights from 67 kg to 90 kg deadweight. Despite the dramatic culling of old sows and the fact that over 240 Genepacker gilts have been brought in during the last 12 months, no problems were experienced with their integration. Conception rates have improved to 88 per cent and average numbers born alive increased to 11.5 per litter with over 22 pigs from the mainly-gilt herd being reared per sow a year, despite the continued health challenges.

Weaning weights have improved from 7 kg to 8 kg at four weeks and growth rates are also on the up.

The herd uses 100 per cent AI from its own Yorker boars which processors favour for their ability to produce lean pigs at higher slaughter weights. "Even at our current rearing numbers, by taking pigs to heavier slaughterweights we will be producing a greater quantity of pigmeat from fewer sows and that should put the herd back into profit. But as the improvements work through the system we aim to do even better," said Mel Lake.

Source: JSR Genetics - 10th November 2003

5m Editor